Walter Rauschenbusch as preacher: The development of his social thought as expressed in his sermons from 1886 to 1897

Heinz D Rossol, Marquette University


This dissertation focuses on the sermons Walter Rauschenbusch, preached at the Second German Baptist Church, New York City (1886-1897), and traces the development of his social thought and how he expressed and integrated it into a preaching ministry directed to a specific congregation. The thesis is that the sermons show a side to Rauschenbusch not seen in his published works. His published works portray the new directions in which his thought was moving during this period. The sermons show that these new directions were not a break with his past, but an expansion and enlargement of his pietistic heritage. It is generally agreed that the crucial experience for Walter Rauschenbusch's lifetime of social concern is found in his eleven-year pastorate in New York. Here he sought to discover a synthesis between his pietistic heritage and his awakening social interest. While Rauschenbusch's published works from this period have been examined in detail, the sermons have not--though thirty-eight volumes of sermon manuscripts from his pastorate are extant. Our study begins with an examination of the historical, social, and ecclesiastical context in which the sermons were preached. The sermons are then analyzed and compared in terms of their overall themes, specific theological concepts, and their relationship to the audiences to which they were addressed. This analysis and comparison provides us with the substantive evidence which delineates the development of Rauschenbusch's thought as expressed to his New York congregation. This study concludes that as Rauschenbusch's theological thought developed, he did not reject earlier concepts to make room for the new, but expanded and added to what was already there. He did not break with his past. Though he introduced new elements and expanded his understanding of earlier concepts, he did not reject the old. He combined both in an "enlarged and intensified" theological framework under the all-encompassing concept of the Kingdom of God. The sermons show a complementary, and neglected, side to that of Rauschenbusch as "social prophet." We find Rauschenbusch the pastor, who emphasized the individualistic and personalistic aspects of the Christian faith.

Recommended Citation

Rossol, Heinz D, "Walter Rauschenbusch as preacher: The development of his social thought as expressed in his sermons from 1886 to 1897" (1997). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9811402.